Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kickstarting a Pebble

Yes, I'm a bandwagon jumper on Kickstarter who ordered a Pebble e-paper smartwatch and made it the best funded project to date, contributing to the over US$10m raised via this crowdfunding portal.

The packaging Pebble ships in opens up into a well-padded interior, securely cradling the watch and its magnetic USB charging cable. Apparently, a single charge keeps the watch going for 5-7 days. We'll see.

The Pebble looks a bit big on my dainty wrist, but I like the idea of being able to change watch faces on the fly. Currently, there are digital, textual and whimsical watch faces to choose from, and when the SDK finally gets released in April, lots more users will be able to design more watch faces to add to the growing list of options available.

Apart from the cosmetic face changing ability, the cool idea behind the Pebble is that it pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth and alerts you to incoming calls by displaying caller ID; SMS messages with sender info and a preview of the message; and with further firmware updates, other smartphone notifications from Facebook, Twitter and their ilk if you so desire. The practical effect is that you don't always have to fish your phone out of your pocket every time it buzzes in silent mode to see if a response is urgently needed. Just casually glance at your watch and nobody will be the wiser.

Other apps involving the in-built accelerometer are in the pipeline as well. For the moment, it activates the backlight through a flick of the wrist. Not much, but it's a cool one-handed operation which no other watch currently in the market can duplicate.

On the backplate you can see "Kickstarter Edition" showing that this unit is the very first commercially available production model of its kind. A lot of people who ordered the Pebble through Kickstarter are quite upset over how long it has taken the company to deliver. We've been waiting for very nearly a year and many initial backers' patience has worn thin. The company has only manufactured the jet black colour option to date. Good luck to those who ordered their Pebble in other colours.

The debate among Pebble backers is over what it is we have plonked our money down on. The most impatient think they have bought a product like they would have on Amazon or E-Bay. The many production delays have made these people feel that their money's been spirited away with nothing tangible to show for it.

Although I have been impatiently checking the delivery schedule on a near-daily basis and hyperventilating whenever a company update goes online, my take is that I haven't bought so much a product than I have a process. The product is only the reward for putting faith (and some money) in the process. What I felt I was funding was a learning process for the young entrepreneurs at Pebble, helping them with a little seed-money to develop a cool concept into a fully operational commercially available device I would be proud to wear on my wrist.

Despite the wait, I will say the company has been responsible with its startup capital. The production delays were mostly due to a steep learning curve; upscaling of production processes; R&D on further improvements such as waterproofing to a depth of 50m and upgrading Bluetooth to 4.0 from 2.0; acquiring proper FCC licencing; testing shipping procedures and schedules... but my Pebble is finally here. It works like it should, and though it still looks somewhat like a prototype I'm happy with it's geek-cool cred.

Just because I received my first Kickstarter delivery... I funded something else. Heh.

In other news: look what campus admin surprised me with today! Has it really been that long?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

it's (about!) time

Ironically, the words "it's time" are printed on the package delivered to my house today. Ironic because I ordered it just shy of a year ago, hoping it would arrive by my birthday. Then I watched Christmas; New Year and Chinese New Year; Valentine's Day; and wife's birthday roll by... and finally, finally, it's here! Yet I still have to wait another 24 hours because no one was home to accept delivery and I have to collect it in person at the local post office during opening hours tomorrow. Rawr.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Rocky morning

The Animal Rescue Squad swung into action again, reuniting this naughty runaway dog with his owner.

This bad boy was running around loose on campus with one of our students in hot pursuit. She eventually pinned him down, while I arrived huffing and puffing to see if assistance was required.

Fortunately, his owners had tagged him with his name (Rocky) and their cellphone numbers. A couple of calls later and we established contact; the owners' daughter would collect him from us.

Unfortunately, he decided not to wait with us any longer. Sensing a slight lapse in attention, he bounded off again and I had to run after him. He ran out of the main gate (without signing an early-leave form!), but at least had the good sense not to cross the main road; and even better sense to know that the construction site he ran into eventually was not any more hospitable for him. Making a U-turn, he ran back into my arms.

With a firm grip on his collar, we both marched back to campus. For safekeeping, we locked him in the new HODs' room with air-conditioning and lots of well-meaning company.

That would include Wayne who fetched him a bowl of water; Josh who feels it was partially his fault Rocky got away the second time; HOD PE who ran with me after the escapee; Gurmit who fetched a hefty hemp rope to secure him; Amy who rescued my tea from breakfast when we were so abruptly interrupted by the unauthorized new arrival, and offering her room to keep him in; and all the kaypoh little children who tried to make him feel all warm and welcome while we waited for owner to show up.

And that's where his owner caught up to him. Mission accomplished.